Asking Environmental Questions: Being a Force for Good?

This week in class we considered how frameworks help to weave various ideas together. The study of realism and constructivism showcases the debate over the socially constructed aspects of science; we followed up by considering the varying forces that shape understanding of climate change, touching on social media and right wing populism. It is clear that scientific facts about climate change do not result in action, as forced such as right wing extremism act on understanding. Framework allows us to understand how facts of climate science can lead to action, accounting for those forces which shape the human experience.

This discussion was helpful for my framework as it touches on the construction of facts and imaginaries. When people buy ethical products they are not just buying the physical products and its environmental or social benefits, they are buying the idea of those benefits, and assuming the identity purchasing those benefits provides.

Frameworks provide the way in which scholars approach a question. To better understand the possible frameworks I will work with, I examine the four types of questions my thesis will use.

Descriptive: What strategies have businesses adopted to be a force for good?

  • This question sets the stage for a research project. We need to know what is happening to know how to investigate it. What are businesses doing to be a force for good in the communities they operate in and along the supply chains of goods they provide. This may occur due to corporate interest, consumer demand, or government regulation. Work may focus on physical infrastructure of businesses, employees, communities surrounding stores, or throughout supply chains.

Explanatory: Where did the desire to be a force for good emerge from?

  • This question considers the drivers responsible for this action- why, in the last half century, have businesses began to act as a force for good? In the neoliberal market, businesses have not been responsible for their impacts on various communities throughout supply chains. So if we have businesses trying to be  a force for good, who is driving that. Is it individual consumers? Workers or CEOS in businesses? non-governmental organizations? One may believe this desire arises from internal forces to truly change the standards within a production system, or from growing consumer demand for ethical products where businesses can capture the public’s dollar by offering ethical goods.

Evaluative: Are these strategies for good an effective method to address social inequalities and environmental degradation occurring in the neoliberal market?

  • This question assesses the benefits and pitfalls of business working for good. The question touches on broader concepts like green capitalism, sustainable growth, and ethical consumerism. Various understandings of these social justice strategies emerge from this framing; business strategies for good as a necessary step in the transformation of our current economy to an equitable market system; as the manipulation of consumer demand for ethical products in order to continue producing and profiting off goods while creating a complacent population; a response to consumer demand for ethical products and making changes to production standards so long as the bottom line is not impacted. The evaluative nature of this question means the question will be answered in various ways. This helps to understand major arguments for and against the specific context.

Instrumental: How, if it all, can businesses be a force for good

  • Here we are back at my framing question! The instrumental question seeks to understand what to do about creating a more equitable economic system. We theoretically now know what businesses are doing, why, for whom, and what the current impact is. We can now consider the best way businesses can be a force for good.

3 thoughts on “Asking Environmental Questions: Being a Force for Good?

  1. Nicole! This is an awesome digestion of frameworks—I love that you connect it to your work as understanding people’s choices connecting facts and imaginaries. You’re making good progress it seems with question types. (Yikes, I’m not there yet….)


  2. This is a really interesting topic and I like how you framed it in context of the different question types you will use. I am interested to know what your research methods will be. That could be an interesting dimention to add to your discussion of the questions you are planning to answer.


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